Massive EU3b research boost for nanoelectronics

ENIAC is expected to target the next level of miniaturization required to cross the threshold from micro to nanoelectronics as more and more functions are integrated into simple commercial products.

eu niac 88 298 (photo credit: )
eu niac 88 298
(photo credit: )
The Commission last week adopted its proposal to launch a Europe-wide public-private research partnership in nanoelectronics, called ENIAC. With an expected budget of EU3 billion from industry, Member States and the Commission, it will create a strong nanoelectronics research and manufacturing sector in Europe. This will ultimately generate innovative products with in-built intelligence in countless areas such as the consumer electronics, automotive, healthcare and environmental management sectors. ENIAC is expected to target the next level of miniaturization required to cross the threshold from micro to nanoelectronics as more and more functions are integrated into simple commercial products. This technology is anticipated worldwide to drive new breakthroughs in communication and computing (intelligence in every object); transport (built-in electronics permitting more assisted driving, greater autonomy for vehicles, and safer and more secure traffic control); healthcare (new forms of medical care leading to comfortable treatment at home and early detection of diseases thanks to intelligent portable medical equipment or in-built intelligence in everyday objects); energy and environmental management (intelligent buildings monitoring and reducing energy use, and small, clever, cheap devices networked to monitor and manage pollution and environmental risks); security and safety; and entertainment. ENIAC is a Joint Technology Initiative (JTI) - a new type of Europe-wide public-private-partnership that targets critical industries where existing mechanisms cannot deliver the scale and speed of response needed to keep Europe in-line with global competition. These are areas where the pooling of national, European and industrial funding for research can yield significant added value, in particular by creating incentives for increased private research and development spending. Last week's proposal continues the line the European Commission started two months ago (May 17) when it adopted proposals to launch the first ever Europe-wide public-private R&D partnerships. The Commission presented then two JTIs on Embedded Computing Systems and Innovative Medicines. These JTIs are hoped to pool industry, Member States and Commission resources into targeted research programs. JTIs will move away from the traditional case-by-case public funding of projects approach towards large scale research programs dedicated to common strategic research targets. This new approach is hoped to create critical mass for European research and innovation, consolidate the European research community in key strategic areas and streamline project funding to bring research results on stream quicker. Research is becoming increasingly global, and increasingly competitive. To become world class and stay in the lead requires a concerted effort from Europe's research community, public and private, both pulling together. In some areas, traditional instruments of the Framework Program, such as individual projects with a small number of partners, are no longer appropriate. Increasing the scale and impact of research investment, improving the level of coordination and integration and raising the technological content of industrial activity are essential is Europe is to be a strong, technologically innovative economy. The rapid pace of technological change, the rising costs of research, the increasing complexity and interdependence of technologies, and the potential economies of scale to be gained by cooperation across Europe are all strong reasons for setting up long-term public-private partnerships. JTIs are a new way of doing this, by combining private sector investment with national and European public funding, including funds from the EU's Research Framework Program and, possibly, also loan finance from the European Investment Bank. The Commission expects this new model of public-private partnership to stimulate additional European research investment, build critical mass by uniting currently fragmented efforts and ensure effective and efficient program management. JTIs support cooperative research across Europe in fields of key importance for industrial research where there are clearly identified common technological and economic objectives. The idea is to boost European investment by providing a clear framework for research investment that will encourage both industry and Member States to increase their spending. The European institutions hope to gain massively from a focused approach to research that complements and integrates national research efforts and leads to economies of scale and efficiency gains. Streamlining management overheads and reducing red tape could lead to shorter times to contract and project. This is attractive for companies that face ever-shrinking times to market and windows of opportunity. The ENIAC initiative will be run through a Joint Undertaking, to be established by Council Regulation under Community law later this year. The Joint Undertaking is expected to begin at the start of 2008. Between 2008 and 2013, 60% of the expected EU 3b. nanoelectronics research fund will come from industry and the rest from the Commission and Member and Associated States, all partners in the Joint Undertaking. Each euro of EU funding should generate EU 7-8 of research. The industrial partners will be represented by AENEAS, a non-profit industrial association. Membership of AENEAS is open to large industries, small- and medium-sized enterprises, research institutes, academia and associations active in nanoelectronics. The author is head of the International Department at the Joseph Shem-Tov law firm.